Cheika names Tilse over Robinson
February 21, 2013
Jeremy Tilse, heading into his eighth season at New South Wales Waratahs, will finally make his run-on Super Rugby debut against Queensland Reds at Suncorp Stadium on Saturday night.
After earning his first cap as a reserve in 2007, Tilse gets his maiden starting chance at the expense of Wallabies prop Benn Robinson, who has been dropped to the bench.
Waratahs coach Michael Cheika said on Thursday that Robinson's demotion from the starting line-up was not due to form. The new boss has made it clear he won't be picking teams on reputations alone, and Robinson's benching should put the rest of the star-studded side on notice, as Cheika fights to effect cultural change at the under-achieving franchise.
Tilse, 26, has spent his career playing behind Test stars such as Benn Robinson and Sekope Kepu, but he says he didn't become disillusioned despite waiting so long to get the No.1 on his back.
He puts his late blooming down to the change of environment brought about by Cheika's appointment.
"I've always trained well," Tilse said.
"I think it's just the different environment. Everyone is performing well. Everyone has their chance to put their best foot forward. It's hard knowing there are Wallabies in front of you, but it's also the best thing for me to build my game. I'm training against the best in the country. I think it's done me wonders. It's been a good pre-season. And for me it's been a long pre-season - seven years or so."
Tilse will get no tougher initiation than locking horns with Queensland skipper James Slipper in a ferocious derby at the Suncorp Cauldron.
There seems to be no hard feelings from Robinson, a veteran of 56 Tests and 94 Super Rugby caps.
"We've been talking, that's always the case," Tilse said.
"There's always tips and he's always got the experience."
Fly-half Bernard Foley, meanwhile, says he's comfortable going toe-to-toe with Reds counterpart Quade Cooper, despite battling an ankle injury.
Foley was in a moon boot a few days ago, after damaging a medial ligament, and he has been in and out of ice all week.
The playmaker, Cheika's first-choice No.10, said he wouldn't play if he wasn't confident he'd get through.
"I wouldn't have put myself up for selection and the medical staff wouldn't have risked it for such a vital game," he said.
"Initially it felt really bad ... but it's responded really well to treatment."
The Reds are expected to continue with their strategy of playing Cooper at five-eighth in attack, but switching him out of the front-line for fullback Mike Harris in defence.
Foley said the Waratahs would look to exploit the positional changes.
"It's a string to their bow, but we've done our homework on that and we think we can target them," he said.
"We've tried to come up with a game plan where we can nullify their strengths and really attack their weaknesses."
After playing most of last season at fullback, it will be Foley's first match partnering Brendan McKibbin as the halves pairing.
Israel Folau will start at fullback in his Super Rugby debut, as expected, while Michael Hooper will wear the No.7.
Adam Ashley-Cooper will play at outside centre, with Tom Kingston and Drew Mitchell on the wings.
Waratahs team: Israel Folau, Drew Mitchell, Adam Ashley-Cooper, Tom Carter, Tom Kingston, Bernard Foley, Brendan McKibbin, Wycliff Palu, Michael Hooper, Dave Dennis, Kane Douglas, Sitaleki Timani, Sekope Kepu, Tatafu Polota-Nau, Jeremy Tilse. Replacements: John Ulugia, Benn Robinson, Paddy Ryan, Mitchell Chapman, Lopeti Timani, Matt Lucas, Ben Volavola
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